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Gilbert Gottfried 

When: Dec. 6-8 2012
Price: sidesplitterscomedy.com
sidesplitterscomedy.com
Onstage, Gilbert Gottfried is an insensitive loudmouth. But in an interview he comes across as a nice and thoughtful guy who, well, doesn’t normally speak like that. It becomes clear, in other words, that the stage persona is an alter ego — a shtick. In 2011, the line between the two blurred when Gottfried, after writing a series of insensitive tweets in response to the Japanese tsunami, was terminated as the voice of the Aflac duck. The incident raises an important question about comedians and free speech. We applaud a person for taking on a persona and committing himself to being as obnoxious and lewd as possible — then convert that persona back into a person when we want to chastise him. That’s what happened with Gottfried, Aflac and the press: a convenient shift in context. But there’s a lot more to Gottfried’s career than the Aflac flap: He’s been a Hollywood Square; he was the voice of Iago in the Aladdin franchise; he was Sidney Bernstein, bribing Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop II; and he’s done memorable work at the Comedy Central celebrity roasts, including Hugh Hefner’s, where he launched into an epic retelling of the bawdy joke featured in The Aristocrats. I spoke recently with Gottfried about self-censorship, how social media has changed entertainment culture, and sneaking into movie theaters to watch himself perform; read it at cltampa.com/arts.—Kent Roberts

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